September 1999

    Anglican Bishop Draws Line at Pedophilia
    By Heather Elizabeth Peterson

    Pederastic and pedophilic behavior are "tragically impossible," the Most Rev. Richard Holloway, head of the Scottish Episcopal Church, announced in an interview published in the July 10 Scotsman. He added that adult attraction to minors "undoubtedly remains one of the mysteries of human sexuality."

    Bishop Holloway made the remarks as part of an interview on the eve of the publication of his new book, Godless Morality. The interview covered such topics as church-state relations, theological revisionism, mysticism, and Christians' obligation to serve others.

    Bishop Holloway's remarks came in response to a question from interviewer Naim Attallah concerning his view as to whether there are moral absolutes in sexuality. Richard Holloway, who has been the Anglican Bishop of Edinburgh since 1986, replied, "I don't think there are moral absolutes, and if there are any they are likely to be so general as to apply only in a very broad way. Sexual consent is an important principle, I would say almost an axiom, almost an absolute, which is why rape is always absolutely wrong. Obviously the young cannot give consent, and this makes pederasty and paedophilia tragically impossible. There can never be an allowable sexual relationship there, although it undoubtedly remains one of the mysteries of human sexuality."

    He went on to say that "between consenting adults, I do not think that you can say confidently 'you can do this, but you can't do that'," and he cited as an example "mutually consenting sadomasochism," which he said that he is "personally repelled by" but which he believes "is up to the people involved."

    Earlier in the interview, in reference to homosexuality, Bishop Holloway stated, "The issue is the quality of the relationship. . . . What goes on in the bedroom is a matter of private choice, provided it's non-abusive and provided people are trying otherwise to follow the Christian ethic."

    The bishop, who was ordained in the Scottish Episcopal Church in 1959, is known for his attempts to make Christianity meaningful for modern church-goers. In his 1997 book, Dancing on the Edge, Bishop Holloway twice discusses pedophilia within the context of sexual exploitation. He calls for compassion toward child abusers, saying that many were abused as children themselves, and he suggests that the best way to prevent future abuse is to ensure that children are not put at risk in this way.

    He describes sex with minors as an "abuse of power" analogous to rape and professional sexual exploitation. "Paedophilia, the sexual love of children, is one of the most tragic and intractable of human conditions," he says. "There is no legitimate sexual expression for these urges, though they can be sublimated into creative work with young people, as long as appropriate disciplines are practised. The abuse and exploitation of children is the most distressing aspect of human sexual history, and it is one of the most difficult to deal with. There is some evidence that compulsive paedophilia can be altered by intensive therapy, though very few penal institutions anywhere offer this service. To use a genetic analogy, the only really hopeful approach is to pure this distressing mutation from the human system by taking all possible steps to remove children from situations of abuse so that they will not, as adults, replicate the behaviour that scarred them as children."


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    © 1999 Heather Elizabeth Peterson
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